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Tips for Updating Server Firmware

Keep Up With Power Systems Firmware Updates

Keep Up With Power Systems Firmware Updates

Keeping your Power Systems server firmware at a supported level can improve its reliability and serviceability. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand firmware versioning and the firmware update process.

Release Levels and Versions

Power Systems server firmware versions have two key identifiers, the release level and the version. New release levels are introduced approximately every 6 to 8 months. Multiple levels are generally active at the same time and each will receive periodic version updates. A particular release level will be supported approximately 12 to 18 months. As a server matures, the frequency between release level introductions lengthens. When you move from one level to another you’ll be required to re-IPL (initial program load) the server. This is called a “disruptive” update because all of your partitions must be shutdown as part of the IPL process.

Once you’re on a particular release level, you can upgrade to versions that are specific to that level. Version updates are released about every 3 to 6 months. Within a new version, most updates are applied to the running system with no IPL-ing required. These are known as Concurrent Firmware Maintenance (CFM) updates. In addition, a new version might include “deferred” updates. These are enhancements that cannot be applied to a running system. The deferred updates are applied to the system as part of the firmware update process. However, they aren’t activated until a subsequent re-IPL of the system. You can see if any deferred updates are pending using the hardware management console (HMC).

Upgrading to a new release level is recommended approximately once a year and applying a new version approximately every 6 months. At some point in the server’s lifetime, IBM will freeze its release level and subsequent updates will be delivered through versions of that level. In this situation, annual release level updates are no longer required.

Identifying Release Levels and Versions

The release levels and versions are broken up in different categories depending on the server family and model. For example:

    • Entry level ELxxx_yyy
    • Midrange EMxxx_yyy
    • High-end EHxxx_yyy
    • Entry level ALxxx_yyy
    • Midrange AMxxx_yyy
    • High-end AHxxx_yyy

Here xxx represents a release level and yyy is a version for that level. The release level and version numbering may be different for the various server categories.

Charlie Cler supports customers in a solutions-architect role at Forsythe Technology Inc. He can be reached at

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